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Harpy Diaries : Chick Spreading Its Wings

Daniel Couceiro

Hello everybody one more time from the heart of the Peruvian Amazon!

First, wanted to let you know that the chick is just a bit over four months old, and all of us, the guides and researchers working with the harpy family are surprised by its incredible development. I am showing you here a sequence of images of the chick being one, two, three and four months old, so you can appreciate its development better:

 Harpy chick in Tambopata one month old

One month old.

 

Two months old Harpy Eagle chick in Tambopata

Two months old.

 

Harpy eagle chick in Tambopata, three months old

Three months old.

 

Harpy eagle chick in Tambopata, Peru

Four months old.

 

As you can see, the chick has passed through one of the most fragile moments of its existence, when it is so small that a storm can blow it away or a predator or a scavenger can kill it.

It is growing strong and it is reaching a considerable size for the age it has. Some people around are daring to say that it might be a female, since in the very few moments is alone with Baawaja (dad) on the nest, they appear to have almost the same size. I cannot dare to say such a thing, but I must admit that is getting huge despite the fact of being so young.

So, the chick is showing some behaviors according to its fast growth.

Let’s talk a little bit about chick’s firsts trials of getting away from the ground.

 

 

As you can see on the video above, the chick begins to conduct wing warm-ups, that will help him to develop the later needed wing muscles. Our guess is that this process is going to be repeated for three or four months, since known data tell us harpy eagle chicks´ first flight start at about six or seven months of age.

The fledging period will start when the chick flies to closer branches of the same tree and nearby trees. Being a fledging means to be in the second most fragile moment of its growth: a miscalculation in the takeoff, landing, or just not having enough strength on the wings muscles can lead to a deadly fall from the tree. Therefore, this period of jumping and warming up the wings is so critical; those muscles need to be completely developed in order to not fail in the first flight attempts.

The other growing behavior that we have seen is self-feeding. Here you can see what I am talking about:

 

 

So, here I have another question to pose: if the chick has been self-feeding during the last month ago or so, why the mom keeps feeding it? I have seen the same pattern with the previous chick, even when the chick was 7-8 months old, so it seems to be something that we are going to be watching for a while, but, the reasons are out of my understanding. Maybe is because the chick is not able to get larger pieces or tear bones apart and swallow them, as adults do, or it might be that mom and chick create and strengthen a maternal bond by the fact of feeding and being fed. Maybe when that process ends means that the juvenile is ready to leave the nest.

What do you think? The answer is something that I hope we can figure out as time passes, but in the meanwhile I would love to read your best guess!

 

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